One of the first custom products Jacob designed at Pantechnicon was the brew paddle for La Marzocco, to replace the stock plastic paddle that comes with most machines. There are a lot of factors that contribute to making this one of the most challenging things made here, including an irregular shape, multiple materials and methods of joining them together, and apparently the buffing wheel can grab them and fling them across the room, something I’ve never seen, but I believe him.
As a person who isn't super familiar with manufacturing (unless we're talking about manufacturing dinner) I wanted to follow the making of a component from start to finish. The construction is like a chef’s knife: scales of either wood or hardened acrylic on either side of a stainless steel spine, attached with pins and glue.
We order stainless steel bars (less like bricks; more like slats) and use a horizontal band saw to chop them all down to a standard size, or blank.
Those blanks are then locked into a jig to keep them stable
and are run through one of the CNC milling machines (aka one of the robots).
The CNC has been programmed to cut out the basic shape of the spine, trim any sharp edges off, and finally etch the Pantechnicon logo into the side.
The scales, or the outer parts of the brew paddle, are made from either a hardened acrylic material or from one of the US grown hardwoods we source. First the wood is milled and then cut down into standardized blocks.
We treat the blocks to make them more dimensionally stable (preventing them from responding to heat and humidity), and then they are ready to be cut into scales by one of the CNC machines.
The blocks are locked into place and after a few minutes, two scales emerge, ready for the next step. Each block yields 4 pairs of scales (and a lot of wood chips).
The scales are then attached to the spines with pins and glue, clamped, and allowed to set.
After the glue has dried, the excess adhesive that has squished out is sanded off by hand, and the pocket on the bottom of the panel is machined out.
Then each brew paddle is sanded again, starting with 220 and ending at 600 grit.
After sanding, each paddle is treated with a naturally derived finish- a food safe mix of oil and wax.
Then each paddle is hand buffed to a satiny smooth finish, ready to be installed on a La Marzocco and pull delicious espresso, day after day.
Thanks for reading! I'll be following more of the custom parts we make at Pantechnicon soon.